CoAs Appointment: A Hail Mary by the Courts to Save Indian Sports?


The Delhi High Court was the first to crack the whip on the Indian Table Tennis Federation. Following Manika Batra’s allegations, a three-member committee was formed. On reading the committee’s report, glaring discrepancies in the functioning of the federation were revealed.[1]. The Court held that the behavior of the federation reveals prima facie that it operated solely for the purpose of ‘feed the whims of its officials and ‘went out of their way to undermine the athletes’ efforts.

The commission’s findings were enough to warrant a violation of the 2011 Sports Code. did not proceed to appoint CoA to anchor the federation in the fulfillment of its duties towards the welfare of athletes and sport.

Earlier, in April 2022, the Supreme Court terminated Praful Patel’s tenure as the president of the Football Federation of India.[2], following complaints about major inconsistencies in the election of its members. In its order, the Apex Court observed that “the situation is not in the best interest of the federation“, thus appointing the CoA, headed by Mr. AR Dave, to look after the day-to-day running of the federation and facilitate the adoption of a new constitution in alignment with the Sports code.

Recently, in May, the Delhi High Court also held the Hockey Federation liable for operating in violation of the Sports Code.[3]. In line with precedents previously set by the courts, it would come as no surprise if the Indian Olympic Association were to face the music following the charges recently brought against it for breaching the Code.[4].

The issues highlighted in these three organizations are no different from what BCCI was charged with – administrators who remained in office and became so influential that the integrity and growth of the sport was compromised. Even though the BCCI is an autonomous and self-sufficient body that does not depend on the government for subsidies, unlike these federations, there is no denying that the Supreme Court’s interference in this case has set a precedent in the sports industry. .

Why is compliance with the Sports Code important for NSFs?

In accordance with provisions 1.2, 3.17 and the declaration of intent of the sports code, it is clear that the national sports federations have been envisaged as autonomous bodies.[5] However, government recognition is important so that these federations represent the country on international platforms, have funding to organize sporting events and are entitled to tax and customs exemptions and special dispensation to send funds abroad.

Moreover, in the case of the Indian Hockey Federation Civil Petition No. 7868 of 2005 emphatically maintained that “… international sporting events are a vital part of diplomatic relations between nations, and several considerations such as player safety concerns, apartheid, and perceived human rights abuses have guided nations in their decisions to participate or not to participate in sporting events in different countries. Therefore, political and diplomatic clearances are required by Indian teams before participating in international tournaments and forums..”

Pursuant to Provision 3.6 of the 2011 Sporting Code, National Sport Federations which fail to comply with the Recognition Criteria and other government directives issued from time to time:

  1. Will not be able to select national teams or represent India in any international event or forum.
  2. Will not be allowed to use the word “India” in its name since the inclusion of the word “India” indicates the patronage of the Indian government.
  3. Will lose its “All India” status and may not be able to regulate and control the relevant sports discipline in the country.

It is also important to note that the non-recognition of an DSF can also prove detrimental to the athletes associated with it in the following ways:

  1. Participation in national and international events organized by DSPs which the Government of India does not recognize within the Ministry of Youth and Sports will not be considered for appointment to government positions under the sports quota.
  2. Athletes from unrecognized NSFs may not be able to gain admissions under the athletic quota in schools and colleges.
  3. Athletes participating in national championships organized by DSPs not recognized by the Government of India within the Ministry of Youth and Sports are not eligible for railways or other concessions.

Impact – Nomination of CoAs and Players

Non-recognition of an NSF deprives it of the power to regulate the sport nationally and to have access to government grants and incentives. It also prevents the federation from selecting teams and representing the sport at international events. This year, the Delhi High Court ruled that Taekwondo India was not a recognized federation for the sport in the country, thus having no authority to hold trials for team selection.[6] for the next Asian Championship. SAI (Sports Authority of India) has been tasked to intervene[7]following which trials were notified from May 22n/a in Lucknow. However, World Taekwondo, the International Federation governing the sport, issued a letter stating that the world body would not recognize teams selected by SAI.[8].

Curiously, the International Federation went on to clarify that Taekwondo India was the only recognized authority under its rules to select and send teams for international events. Teams selected by a non-member of World Taekwondo are not allowed to participate in tournaments, and players do not receive ranking points.

Thus, in the administrative turmoil, the actors face the real consequences of the incompetence of the authorities.

The same fate befell Indian footballers, with Fifa (International Federation of Association Football) banning AIFF (All India Football Federation) due to “third party intervention”.[9] FIFA had published a Manual on the TPI (Third Party intervention)[10] promote ‘integrity‘, ‘ethics‘ and ‘Fair play’ in the sporting regime of football, which India is clearly violating. The ban means that all football-related activities in the country have come to a standstill. India will lose the opportunity to host the Under-17 Women’s World Cup, which was scheduled for October this year. Moreover, the Indian team might also lose the chance to participate in the AFC Cup qualifiers in 2023.

The fate of hockey and table tennis could unfold in the same way. The International Hockey Federation (FIH) Membership Conditions, under provision 6.1(d),[11] clearly state that a member will only remain affiliated if they are the sole governing authority for hockey in the jurisdiction (in this case, India). Therefore, if the Hockey Federation of India manages to be de-recognized, the sport and the teams will have to pay a hefty penalty. Although the FIH continue to have full confidence in Hockey India’, it emphasizes that member countries must respect the law of the land[12]. The IFH position on the issue is very lenient and accommodating compared to other international sports federations.

However, the fate of table tennis players may not be so convenient. The International Table Tennis Federation and World Table Tennis reserve the right to accept or reject an entry for international participation if not submitted through Member Affiliates. In addition, according to provision 1.2 of its rules, a body must be the sole authority to regulate the sport in its jurisdiction to be eligible for membership in the federation.[13] Currently, the Indian Table Tennis Federation is suspended and its operations are delegated to the CoA, which has been tasked with sending entries. Officials hope the international federation will keep the interests of the players at the forefront. Otherwise, the players will remain the victims of the incompetence of the governing bodies.

Additionally, in an embarrassing development for the sport, Diya Chitale (World No. 3) has filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court seeking a stay of table tennis trials for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, citing inconsistencies in the selection process.[14]putting India’s table tennis regulator (currently, CoAs) in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Conclusion

Following orders from the Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Sports has revealed that out of the fifty-nine recognized NSFs (National Sports Federations), forty-four have submitted amended constitutions aimed at complying with the Sports Code, of which only six constitutions were found to be satisfactorily compliant with the 2011 Code[15]. Therefore, CoAs are instituted to allow these federations to agree without compromising their day-to-day functioning for the welfare of the respective players.

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